A worldwide campaign calling for action on a global scale for equal pay for women has been initiated by a U.N. agency. On a global scale, the average woman is paid 24% less than men. But in Asia, the number is even more dire at 30% less than men.

A recently conducted study shows some alarming statistics. Estimated by the International Labor Organization, gender inequality in employment is costing the world a great deal of money. Across Asia alone, gender inequality results in a cost of over 45 billion USD in a year. Over 45% of working-age women are outside the labor force – nearly three times more than the proportion for men which stands at 19%.

The numbers were revealed at a forum at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquarters by the leader of the U.N. Women agency, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.

A simulation was done to estimate the changes that would take place should female employment be at the same level as the men’s. Once again the numbers were shocking. Mlambo-Ngcuka said that if that were indeed the case, per capita GDP would skyrocket by 19% in Southeast Asia and 27% in the Middle East and North Africa where it seems like disparity in pay between genders are even greater.

Mlambo-Ngcuka feels very strongly about the importance of achieving equal pay for women in this world. She expresses her feelings saying, “We are definitely going to go on a major campaign on equal pay — this is one of the issues we are putting to heads of state, we are also putting that to private sector.” She added, “The issue of equal pay is paramount because we have to win some battles in order for women to be in a position to believe that we’re making progress.”


Gender Inequality in Asia

U.N. Women is pushing for the implementation of a stand-alone goal on gender equality in Asia and the rest of the world. It will be known as Goal 5 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, and will be launched at the United Nations at the end of September.

The goal is to strive for equal pay on a global scale. Women from Wall Street, to the sugar cane farms in Brazil, to the factories in South Africa who are paid less than their male peers for equal work have talents that are not valued, and allowing that to continue would be tolerating a violation of women’s rights, Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

Another alarming statistic is the number of women who work outside home. Around seventy-five percent of women around the world who work outside the home are in the informal sector which means they do not have protected work, minimum wage, and pensions, leaving them poor in their old age, Mlambo-Ngcuka said.

The ADB and U.N. Women announced Tuesday that they will collaborate on a study to track the Asia Pacific region’s progress in meeting its gender equality goals under the SDGs framework which runs until 2030. The study will focus on SDG Goal 5 but will also include all goals and targets to improve women’s lives.

The aim of the SDG Goal 5 is to end all forms of discrimination, violence, and harmful practices against women and girls. Another one of its aims is to recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work undertaken by all female workers.

ADB President Takehiko Nakao said that while the Asia-Pacific region has made progress on gender equality in some areas, a lot of work still needs to be done in many more areas.

“We must address challenges in areas such as maternal health and employment by creating decent jobs, and ensuring wage parity so women and men, girls and boys reach their full potential,” he added.

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